The Joyce Foundation launched Shifting Gears in 2007 with the goal of helping six Midwest states significantly increase the number of low-skilled adults with the education and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century economy. Between 2007 and 2011, the Foundation awarded a total of about $8 million in grants to Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, with the expectation that officials in these states would pursue a systems change agenda for making existing education and skills development systems work better for adult learners. Shifting Gears emphasized the need for aligning policy and priorities across adult basic education, workforce development, and community and technical college systems to improve adult transitions to postsecondary education. State officials were expected to identify innovative strategies for serving lowskilled adults in new ways that, over time, would be infused into these systems and the mainstream operations of their local providers and institutions. The premise of Shifting Gears was that states would be able to bolster postsecondary success of low-skilled adults if the old ways of delivering education and related services were replaced with more effective and aligned approaches.
The Joyce Foundation recognized that change would not come easily or quickly and was unlikely to be realized during the first five years of Shifting Gears. Accordingly, this evaluation focuses on the extent to which each of the six states "gained traction on the ground" by implementing their innovative strategies within local institutions and providers of education and skills development. This evaluation specifically focuses on the innovative strategies that connected a state's adult basic education (ABE) system with its community and technical college system. The overarching evaluative questions answered by this report from the first five years of Shifting Gears are:
- To what extent have states begun to adopt and implement an innovative strategy to improve transitions from adult basic education into community and technical colleges, including serving participants in these new ways?
- What are the factors that influenced progress in the states to adopt and implement these innovative strategies during the initiative?